December 13, 2012
Investigator uncovers new evidence in case involving teenage girlsRICHMOND — New evidence in a human trafficking case has led to several sex crime charges against two parents.
Anthony Hart, 48, and Kathy Hart, 45, were arraigned Thursday in Madison Circuit Court on two counts each of first-degree illegal transaction with a minor (illegal sex act involving child under 16) and use of a minor under 16 in a sexual performance.
They both pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In 2011, Anthony Hart was indicted on a charge of human trafficking (victim under 18). Kathy Hart was indicted on a charge of complicity to human trafficking.
The original indictment alleged that from October 2009 to February 2011, the Harts arranged “for their 13- and 14-year-old daughters to provide companionship and affection to male individuals in exchange for money and goods.”
One person, Alexander Gomez-Lopez, was identified as having sexual contact with one of the girls through evidence from a digital camera. He pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree sexual abuse and received a sentence of one year in prison.
The Berea Police Department detective who investigated the case recently conducted new interviews with the victims, who have been in foster care, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith. The detective was able to uncover evidence about sex crimes that occurred when the Harts allowed adult men to spend time with their daughters in exchange for money and goods
The new charges were presented to the grand jury last week, Smith said.
Anthony Hart has been in jail since his arrest in February 2011, but Kathy Hart was out on bond until last month when court officials reported she tested positive for marijuana in a drug test.
Kathy Hart’s attorney Stan Manziano asked Judge Jean C. Logue to reinstate his client’s bond at Thursday’s arraignment.
“This is one positive test in a screen over the course of a year of negatives,” Manziano said.
Logue did not reinstate Kathy Hart’s bond at the hearing.
The Harts were set for a pretrial hearing at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 7. They are scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 11.
Manziano filed a motion in July notifying the court Kathy Hart planned on using mental health information in her defense. Although earlier this year Logue found Kathy Hart competent to stand trial based on an evaluation by a state psychologist, eight years ago the woman was found incompetent to stand trial due to a low IQ.
The Harts were accused in 2003 of trying to sell their newborn baby for $3,000 to undercover police officers in the Danville Walmart, according to court documents.
Anthony Hart pleaded guilty in that case to a charge of prohibited acts and practices in the adoption of children, and he served two years in prison, according to the Associated Press.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6694.